Sunset Boulevard – let the second half surprise you at Bradford Alhambra

Andrew Lloyd Webber is undoubtedly a genius – anyone who’s seen his hit musicals knows that. It’s hard to see much of this musical wizardry shine through until the second half of Sunset Boulevard, however, but it’s there – stick with it.

The show tells the story of failing writer Joe Gillis as he stumbles into the life of Norma Desmond, a silent movie star who lost her place at the top of the tree once movies with sound became a more popular artform. Highlighting the tragic desperation of a star fallen from admiration, Norma clings to Joe with claustrophobic mania and, unsurprisingly, disaster ensues.

Despite receiving rave reviews, I don’t reckon much to Ria Jones as Norma. She plays the part well but I don’t feel any emotion towards her. The first scene we see of her is her clinging to a dead chimp (why? We’ll never know) and this kind of disjointed madness continues throughout the production and her triumphant belting songs are just a little overdone.

Danny Mac as Joe Gillis, however, is the performance holding the whole show together. He has swagger, vulnerability and fantastic acting, dancing and singing talent. He’s flawless, and I’m surprised we haven’t seen him tour regularly in big-name parts. The show’s not good enough for him.

Adam Pearce as Norma’s creepy butler Max gives a strange performance that softens towards the end of the show. The whole ambiance throughout is vaguely sinister, yet the plot doesn’t really require it. I feel the direction from Nikolai Foster is a little disjointed – the show swings from manic Hollywood scenes to a haunted house-like theme. I also feel Danny Mac’s big number, Sunset Boulevard, should have been placed as the closing to Act One. It’s the showstopper of the night by far and performed so beautifully. Why Ria Jones is left to soak up the spotlight is beyond me – Danny Mac is the real star in this, and the performer deserving of his standing ovation.

Catch Sunset Boulevard at Bradford Alhambra until 10th February.